Fearmongering AP Reporter Urges Biden, Psaki to Thwart State Reopenings

Hours after CDC Director Dr. Michelle Walensky was on the verge of tears warning of an “impending doom” of increasing coronavirus cases, Associated Press correspondent and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Lemire took her marching orders Monday afternoon to President Biden and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and pressing them to urge states to halt reopening efforts.

For a liberal media and public health community that’s realizing their death grip on the American people was slipping away, it seemed as though they’ve found their new narrative to keep an increasingly vaccinated country from returning to pre-pandemic life.

Lemire led off the Q&A of the White House press briefing by gushing over Walensky’s “impassioned warning against a rise in COVID cases and said it filled with a sense of ‘impending doom’” and so he wanted to know if Biden would be “reach[ing] out directly to governors, including Democratic governors of states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan that are seeing rises and ask them to slow down or pause them reopening their states.”

Like with most questions, Psaki didn’t offer much of an answer, insisting that the White House was always “in very close touch with governors of the states and states across the country, not only through our weekly governors call, which is led by our COVID coordinator, but through calls and engagements that happen through the course of the week and the course of every day.”

The MSNBC contributor then followed up by again peddling the CDC director. Surprisingly, Psaki didn’t take the opportunity to chastise states for daring to allow their citizens to emerge from their state of solitude and instead reiterated her previous talking points (click “expand”):

LEMIRE: But my follow-up to that is simply this is probably the most precarious moment since the president took office, that’s according to the CDC director today. Will the president not take additional steps to talk to governors and ask them to slow down reopenings? 

PSAKI: Well, Jonathan, the President uses every opportunity, whether it’s public — publicly through every interview, through nearly every public engagement he has. He has remarks later this afternoon, as you know, on COVID, providing an update on our effort to defeat the virus. He also does that through private engagements as well. But there are a range of officials at very high levels who are in touch with government leaders across the country who will continue to emphasize the need to abide by public health guidelines.

Fast-forward almost two hours later, and reporters got Biden on the record with Lemire and ABC’s Rachel Scott asked Biden to echo this newfound apocalyptic rhetoric to further prolong the economic, educational, and mental health crisis as a result of this coronavirus pandemic:

SCOTT: Mr. President, Dr. Walensky said she’s scared of impending doom with COVID cases on the rise. Are you?            

BIDEN: I just explained it, I think, thoroughly. I hope I did anyway. Thank you.

LEMIRE: Mr. President, do you believe some states should pause their reopening efforts?

BIDEN: Yes.

Going back to the briefing, Reuters’s Jeff Mason and the Washington Examiner’s Rob Crilly made the White House look tone-deaf when they asked about whether, in light of their insistence, that Americans should restrict their movement due to the COVID caseload. This led Psaki to insist that Biden and Vice President Harris should be allowed to keep up with their schedules, no matter where it takes them (click “expand”):

MASON: And very last one, also a follow-up to the CDC and White House briefing this morning on COVID, they made very clear that they are urging Americans to continue to take action to prevent a surge, including non-essential travel. Is the warning against non-essential travel something that the White House is taking into consideration with regard to upcoming travel by the president and vice president, both for business and personal reasons? 

PSAKI: Well, the President travels as does the Vice President on a private plane. That is the purview of every president and vice president throughout American history. That is, of course, different than traveling on a commercial flight and going to mass events. As you know, we don’t — the president is not hosting rallies, nor is the Vice President. We take the role of sending — being models quite seriously, but I think most Americans would recognize the difference. 

(….)

CRILLY: If I could just quickly follow-up on Jeff’s question?

PSAKI: Sure.

CRILLY: Is it the White House position that the CDC travel guidelines don’t apply if you have a private plane? 

PSAKI: I think the President — he was asking me specifically about the President’s travel and the Vice President’s travel and the specifics of the guidelines. You can certainly ask the CDC for further clarification. But what I’m conveying is that the President — as any president does, travels on Air Force One, whether he is traveling to visit a community in this country or whether he is traveling to go to his home state of Delaware and I think most people recognize that as being a difference.

And in one final briefing highlight, CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly inquired about the upcoming WHO report on the origins of the virus that was reportedly done with help from the communist Chinese government.

Incredibly, Mattingly was allowed to ask this since CNN has frowned upon doing anything that would paint red China in a negative light:

And then the forthcoming WHO report, I know some people who — have drafts of it. Does the administration put any stock into it given how it was put together and also is the U.S. working on a parallel way — via its intelligence community, its public health officials to produce its own conclusions about the origins of coronavirus?

As usual, Psaki had little to reveal other than to say experts at a slew of government agencies would review it before the administration would comment.

To see the relevant transcript from March 29’s briefing and after Biden’s remarks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
March 29, 2021
12:45 p.m. Eastern

JONATHAN LEMIRE: The CDC director today delivered an impassioned warning against a rise in COVID cases and said it filled with a sense of “impending doom. We are seeing cases arise in many states. My question is does the President plan to reach out directly to governors, including Democratic governors of states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan that are seeing rises and ask them to slow down or pause them reopening their states? 

JEN PSAKI: Well, Jonathan, we are in very close touch with governors of the states and states across the country, not only through our weekly governors call, which is led by a our COVID coordinator, but through calls and engagements that happen through the course of the week and the course of every day. And the President has not held back in calling for calling for governors, leaders, the American people to continue to abide by the public health guidelines, whether they are mask mandates on federal lands and buildings or on interstate travel, whether it’s, you know, encouraging people to hand wash and abide by social distancing. He will continue to do that through all of his engagements and, of course, through calls with local officials but we are in close contact with leaders across the country. 

LEMIRE: But my follow-up to that is simply this is probably the most precarious moment since the president took office, that’s according to the CDC director today. Will the president not take additional steps to talk to governors and ask them to slow down reopenings? 

PSAKI: Well, Jonathan, the President uses every opportunity, whether it’s public — publicly through every interview, through nearly every public engagement he has. He has remarks later this afternoon, as you know, on COVID, providing an update on our effort to defeat the virus. He also does that through private engagements as well. But there are a range of officials at very high levels who are in touch with government leaders across the country who will continue to emphasize the need to abide by public health guidelines.

(….)

12:57 p.m. Eastern

PHIL MATTINGLY: And then the forthcoming WHO report, I know some people who — have drafts of it. Does the administration put any stock into it given how it was put together and also is the U.S. working on a parallel way — via its intelligence community, its public health officials to produce its own conclusions about the origins of coronavirus? 

PSAKI: Well, it’s a little early for that last piece right now but let me give you an update on kind of where we are. The report — under embargo, of course — is now in the hands of U.S. government experts from CDC, FDA, NIH, HHS, USDA, DHS, and USAD — that is a lot of acronyms. 17 experts, long-standing leaders in the field, including epidemiology, public health, clinical medicine, veterinary medicine, infectious disease, law, food security, bio safety, bio security— we a lot of experts in government — will be reviewing this report intensively and quickly and we have some of our best people in government focused on reviewing it right now. We are communicating closely with our partners and allies around the world to share ongoing concerns, which we have stated in the past, of course, about the process and our scientific analysis of the report itself once these individuals have concluded their review. We will wait for that review to conclude. We have been clear that an independent, technically sound investigation is what our focus is on and once this is reviewed, we will have an assessment on the steps forward.

(….)

1:03 p.m. Eastern

JEFF MASON: And very last one, also a follow-up to the CDC and White House briefing this morning on COVID, they made very clear that they are urging Americans to continue to take action to prevent a surge, including non-essential travel. Is the warning against non-essential travel something that the White House is taking into consideration with regard to upcoming travel by the president and vice president, both for business and personal reasons? 

PSAKI: Well, the President travels as does the Vice President on a private plane. That is the purview of every president and vice president throughout American history. That is, of course, different than traveling on a commercial flight and going to mass events. As you know, we don’t — the president is not hosting rallies, nor is the Vice President. We take the role of sending — being models quite seriously, but I think most Americans would recognize the difference. 

(….)

1:07: p.m. Eastern

ROB CRILLY: If I could just quickly follow-up on Jeff’s question?

PSAKI: Sure.

CRILLY: Is it the White House position that the CDC travel guidelines don’t apply if you have a private plane? 

PSAKI: I think the President — he was asking me specifically about the President’s travel and the vice president’s travel and the specifics of the guidelines. You can certainly ask the CDC for further clarification. But what I’m conveying is that the President — as any president does, travels on Air Force One, whether he is traveling to visit a community in this country or whether he is traveling to go to his home state of Delaware and I think most people recognize that as being a difference.

(….)

White House event
2:44 p.m. Eastern

RACHEL SCOTT: Mr. President, Dr. Walensky said she’s scared of impending doom with COVID cases on the rise. Are you?            

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I just explained it, I think, thoroughly. I hope I did anyway. Thank you.

LEMIRE: Mr. President, do you believe some states should pause their reopening efforts?

BIDEN: Yes.

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